Formentera, the last paradise in the mediterranean

Formentera, the last paradise in the mediterranean

June 26, 2013  |  Spain  |  6 Comments
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Despite having some of the best natural beaches in the mediterranean sea, with white sand and water that dazzles with perfect clarity, mild climate along the year, great mediterranean food and being just 2 hours by plane (plus 30 min by boat) from the main european capitals, Formentera remains an unexploited paradise in the mediterranean sea.

This little, peaceful and hippie spanish island, together with it’s sister Menorca, hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years… specially if you compare it with it’s other balearic sisters Ibiza or Mallorca. In fact, even in August, when the island is packed of tourists, you can still enjoy it by avoiding the popular places and finding your spot at a hidden beach and watching amazing sunsets just by yourself.

I have just returned from a long week in Formentera (my forth summer so far) and I still discover amazing places that exceed my expectations. These are some of the places I like the most:

Best beaches

Formentera is about exploring and discovering the beach that suits your needs. You have plenty of options: from the long and sandy to the tiny rocky spots just for you and your couple. These are my suggestions:

  • Ses Illetes and Levante beaches
    Part of the Natural Park of Ses Salines (a World Heritage Site by Unesco) you will find a wild narrow piece of land with beaches on both sides (some people choose sides depending on the wind). The northern you get, the less people you’ll find. In august it is full of celebrities and some of the most amazing yachts you will ever see. Unless you get there by boat, the entrance fee is 2€ per scooter and 5€ per car. There is no infrastructure here apart from a series of wood-built beachside restaurants called “Chiringuitos”. I’d suggest “Tanga” for having the best value for money (35€pax, with great paella and seafood). “Juan y Andrea” is definitely the place to spot celebrities (70€pax) and “El Tiburón” to enjoy the best sunset. If you enjoy walking and swimming, try crossing to the private island S’Espalmador (ten minutes walk with water up to your neck + 30 min walk along the park to get to the strait from the nearest parking lot) or take a shuttle boat (20€ round ticket per pax).
  • Mitjorn beach
    Along the south coast of the island, Migjorn combines long sandy beaches with wild and rocky spots of bright green water, ideal for the lonely and nudists that prefer to be accompanied by a good book. In both cases, it is a great option if you travel with kids as it doesn’t get deep enough for swimming until you are far from the shore. Along the beach you will find great “chiringuitos” such as: Blue Bar (good food and good music) and the tiny “Lucky” and “Piratabus” (both always packed, relax and fun, perfect for sunsets).
  • Other beaches
    Try Cala Saona (Carved into a cliff) and Es Caló (tiny fisherman’s town with wonderful micro beaches a couple hundred meters to the west)

Best sunsets

As I have suggested before, Formentera is also about discovering and enjoying your own unforgettable sunsets, free shows repeated day by day, and each time in a different way… These are some tips:

  • Lighthouse at Cap de Barbaria: I do not know what is more beautiful: the lighthouse or the road that leads to it. Lunar landscape crowned by a lighthouse that rises in the middle of nowhere. One of the most magical places in the world.
  • El Mirador: best views of the island while you enjoy the sunset and a good drink
  • Punta de sa Pedrera: if you like to trek, this is one of the wildest places in the island. It offers magnificent views of the rugged coastline and Ibiza
  • Chiringuitos and Restaurants: as I’ve said before, try out Lucky, Tiburón, PirataBus, Chez Gerdi, Café del Lago…

Hippie spirit

The hippie phenomenon was introduced on the island back in the 60s and it still remains part of daily life: traditional craft markets, naturist culture, devotion to the sunset, Flower Power parties… The most important of all takes place in Sant Francesc central square every month of July were thousands of people, of all ages and backgrounds, dress with the hippie style and dance to the music of the 60s, 70s and 80s in a Plaça fully decorated with spectacular psychedelic projections on the church’s white wall. This party features DJ Pharma (Pep Lluis, the pharmacist of the neighbour town Sant Ferran), an institution on the island, that “gives everything” on the stage.

The artisans’ market of El Pilar de la Mola is the king of the hippy markets on the island, and the one cultural event for which the whole of Formentera – hippies, locals, Italians and the rest of the tourists – turns up to watch. It has a seriousness and quality that is surprising, and is open on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

Restaurants

These are my top five restaurants:

  • Macondo: probably the best pizza in… the world! Full of locals and Italians
  • Fonda Pepe: An institution in the island. Full of locals. Mediterranean food + seafood
  • Can Carlos: Probably the most elegant restaurant in the island
  • Chez Gerdy: great decoration, great spot, great service and nice sunset
  • Can Carol: small familiar restaurant that openned in June 2013 in La Mola, good price, worth a try when you visit the artisan’s market
  • Aigua: my friend Sara suggests this Japanese restaurant at the port. The best views are at the right side

Where to stay

In Formentera I have always stayed at Casa Serena, a physical and spiritual oasis. Located in the best part of Formentera (five minute walk from Mitjorn beach), Casa Serena hosts couples and groups looking for peace a quiet. Their breakfast (with home made bakery) is just perfect. Yo can book one of the 5 rooms… or the entire house for you and your family/friends. Here you will find more info about rooms and rates.

casa_serena-fotos5

One final tip: rent a scooter to move around the island. In Formentera there are no traffic lights. You can also rent a bicycle, but you have to be in a good shape


Ver

Photos by Pedro Sagüés
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Cape Cod, wild beaches and charming lighthouses

Cape Cod, wild beaches and charming lighthouses

April 13, 2013  |  USA  |  No Comments
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Described by Thoreau as “The great Outer Beach” in 1800s, the Cape Cod is a peninsula with 15 towns and more than 40 miles in the outer cop of spectacular scenary, beautiful wild beaches, dunes, ponds and charming lighthouses. A big part of the code is federally protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Those I consider to be the best places in Cape Cod are:

  • Cape Cod National Seashore Park (view map): this is the real Cape Cod, definitely a must see. I’d suggest to begin the journey early in the morning at one of the visitor centers (Salt Pond or Province Land) so you can provide yourself with information for your visit. At Salt Pond buy a day parking pass for 15$ that allows you to park at all 6 National Seashore. You can visit Truro (a town with an impressive lighthouse and a nice beach called Meadow beach). At the tip of the cape you will find the Race Point, with great biking and walking trails, amazing wild beaches, the beautiful Race Point Lighthouse and the magical 1898 Old Harbor Life-Saving Station (one of the few unaltered left in the country). Other places to visit are the Coast Guard Station and beach in Eastham, that offer super-scenic views.
  • Provincetown, located at the very tip, is Cape Cod’s most popular vacation destination, specially for gay men and lesbians (it has the highest concentration of same-sex couple households of any zip code in the US). It was the first landing place of the Mayflower Pilgrims almost 400 years ago and is the oldest continuous art colony in America and the birthplace of the Modern American Theater. Almost three-quarters is preserved in its wilderness state as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park
  • Sandwich, the Cape’s oldest town, is full of weathered shingles and whaling captains’ mansions and fully involved with American glass production
  • Sunset at Eastham: Later afternoon is the best time to really explore the beaches with not many people around. Sunset over First Encounter Beach in Eastham is very recommended as well as full moon beach walks
  • Drive-in Theater: if you still have any energy left, there’s a drive-in theater in Wellfleet. Perfect activity for couples and kids (website)

To learn more about the best places in New England, please also read Best Places in Boston and Newport, a yachting capital and a coastal crown.


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Finally, i’d just like to say hi to my good friends Diegol, MarkyMark, Moñi and Juanito. What a funny and amazing weekend we spent back in the summer of 1997 :-)
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Newport, a yachting capital and a coastal crown

Newport, a yachting capital and a coastal crown

April 7, 2013  |  USA  |  No Comments
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Once the quintessential playground of American aristocracy, Newport remains as the coastal crown of New England, famous for its opulent mansions, elegant shops, great restaurants and for being the yachting capital of the world by hosting the America’s Cup for decades.

These are the best places and my recommendations for a two day visit:

  • Newport Mansions: The leading architects of the 19th and early 20th centuries built exhuberant mansions for families such as Vanderbilt and Astor. Many of these properties have been preserved by The Preservation Society of Newport County and are open to the public. This is a perfect occasion to explore 250 years of American history and to enjoy amazing cottages that in the rest of the world are absolutely inaccesible behind big walls. Unless you want to visit all the properties, my recommendation is to buy “The Breakers Plus” ticket that gives you access to the property of your choice (the most populars are The Elms, Marble House, Rough Point and Rosecliff), aswell as The Breakers, the magnificent 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo that is definitely worth a visit. Besides this, I would just suggest you to (better) walk, ride (rent a bike for 35$/day here) or drive down Bellevue Avenue were you will enjoy not only the mansions open to the public but also many more private properties whith beautiful gardens that can be seen directly from the street.
  • Scenic Ocean Drive: starting at the end of Bellevue Av. and finishing in Newport harbor waterfront, this 10 miles roadway offer spectacular wide-open views of the Atlantic Ocean and astonishing million dollar mansions. Along the way, you can park and walk along its rocky shoreline. I recommend stopping for a drink at the peaceful and quiet Relais Chateaux Castle Inn Hill to enjoy magnificent views of the bay. Once you are there, take a walk to Castle Hill Lighthouse to enjoy the best sunset in Newport. Further down the Ocean Drive, make a stop at Breton Point (also a good place to watch the sunset) or walk down the different public beaches (Reject Beach, Gooseberry Beach…).
  • Cliff walk: A scenic 3.5 mile public access walkway that borders the shore line and back lawn that allow you to enjoy the gardens and facades of marvellous cottages, among which you will find the famous “The Breakers”. Definitely a top attraction in Newport. You can easily park along Narragansett St. by the entrance to the 40 Steps that take you to the walk.
  • The wharfs: the two more popular wharfs are Bannister or Bowens Wharf, were you’ll find nice shops and good restaurants. I recommend the entertaining Clarke Cooke (with live bands and good night live), the familiar The Mooring (great lobster) and the unpretencious and creative Tallulah on Thames. Ten minute walk north you will find, depending on the season, the best yachts and sailing boats at Newport Shipyard. If you like to sail, take a tour along the bay in the 80 feet Adirondack II Schooner. I’ve been told that it offers a comfortable, safe and high-performance sailing experience.


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If you plan to visit Newport, I’d suggest to read my article about Boston, placed just an hour drive from Newport.

Finally, I want to thank my friend, and amazing traveller, Jorge M.C. for all of the great tips that he gave me. Thanks Jorge!!! :-)
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To learn more about the best places in New England, please read Best Places in Boston and Cape Cod, wild beaches and charming lighthouses.

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Best places in Boston

Best places in Boston

March 30, 2013  |  USA  |  1 Comment
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In the summer of 2012 I visited Boston for my second time. In 1997 I spent the entire summer studying and partying so I am not at all an expert in this city :) I am writing this post just to give a quick overview to those that have never been there. These are some of my recommendations:

  • Founded in 1630 by the colonists from England, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. During the late 18th century, Boston was the location of several major events during the American Revolution. The Freedom Trail is a 2,5 mile walking path through downtown Boston that leads to 16 significant historic sites and gives you a good overview of the history of the american revolution. I think it is worth taking this trail. (click here to download map)
  • The North End (also known as “Little Italy”) is the city’s oldest and most culturally rich neighborhoods and a must stop in your visit to Boston. Known for its fine dining, amazing cafes and great buzz, the streets are narrow and compact and there is history around every corner.
  • Beacon Hill is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Boston. Known for its narrow, gas-lit streets with brick sidewalks and quietude. Beacon Hill is a perfect place to stroll peacefuly (Pickney St, Vernon, St, Louisburg Sq…).
  • Located in the city center, Boston Common is the oldest park in the United States. Throughout its long history, it has been used for many purposes: public hangings, camping site for the british troops, site for speeches from Martin Luther King Jr. or Pope John Paul II. Nowadays is a perfect place to lay down and enjoy the sunset reflected in the city’s skyline.
  • Harvard University, the world’s best known university, is a place that bring me great memories: I studied there for three months and made amazing friends. You should definitely walk around Harvard Yard (Memorial Church, Widener Library, …) and step into any of the multiple buildings, cross Cambridge St. and get inside the Science Center (were many of the students are) and go down John F. Kennedy St. to the other side of Charles River to visit the sports facilities (Stadium, tennis courts, fields, …) and walk around the quiet and beautiful gardens and buildings of the prestigious Harvard Business School. (check this map of Harvard)


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    There are many others places to visit in Boston such as:

  • Fenway Park: This oldest Major League baseball park and home of the Boston Red Sox team is a small and intimate place to enjoy the best baseball. The match I went lasted more than 4 hours, enough time to eat 3 hot dogs, 4 slices of pizza, pretzels, gallons of coke… :). Website
  • Faneuil Market Place and Quincy Market: it’s the most touristic spot in Boston. Be prepared to see plenty of tourists and expensive shops and restaurants. Website.
  • Boston Duck Tours: It’s a funny and easy way to discover Boston in a W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle. The 80 min. tour is narrated by the conductor and takes you around Boston’s main sites, including a 20 min. splash into the Charles River for a view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. Website
  • Newbury street is lined with historic 19th-century brownstones that contain hundreds of shops and restaurants, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals. The most expensive boutiques are located near the Boston Public Garden end of Newbury Street. The shops gradually become slightly less expensive and more bohemian toward Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Museum of Fine Arts: Holds one of the world’s most impressive art collections and is renowned for its impressionist paintings, Egyptian collections and early American art. Website

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Photos by Pedro Sagüés

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Canoe trip at Algonquin Park

Canoe trip at Algonquin Park

October 14, 2012  |  Canada  |  2 Comments
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Canada offers a wide variety of National Parks. In the summer of 2012 I visited Algonquin. Its size (almost 8,000 square kilometres), combined with its proximity to Toronto and Otawa (5 hour drive from both locations) makes Algonquin one of the most popular parks in the entire country.

The essence of Algonquin is in its more than 2,400 lakes, its unique mixture of forest types and the wide variety of environments, that allows it to support an uncommon diversity of plant and animal species.

Algonquin is an amazing place for doing canoe trips. Its large variety of camping sites and lakes allow you to have the feeling of being alone in the wild.

Our trip lasted for 3 nights and we had the best guides: our friends Sarah and Gonzalo that live in Toronto and visit the park each time they can. We rented the equipment at the Portage Store in the Canoe Lake.

At a Canoe trip you have the chance of getting close to the wildlife (we saw Deers, Bears, …), swimming in beautiful lakes just for yourself, hiking and walking well marked trails, enjoying the sunset while preparing dinner and singing songs and eating marshmallows around the camp fire ;-)

If you prefer it, you can stay at a resort as Algonquin Park is the only park of Ontario to allow industrial logging. You will find very few of them though.

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To learn more about Algonquin, visit:
http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/
http://www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp/online_resources.html
http://www.algonquinmap.com/online.html

Photos by Pedro Sagüés

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Conrad Maldives, a perfect vision of paradise

Conrad Maldives, a perfect vision of paradise

August 21, 2011  |  Asia  |  2 Comments
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When you travel, sometimes the place you visit is so beautiful and interesting that, no matter where you’re staying, it will be memorable (ie: Paris, Venice, Bhutan). Some others, the hotel itself is so amazing, that no matter where it is placed, it will make your journey unforgettable.

I visited the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort in december 2009, and I can assure that both aspects match in such way that they become a perfect vision of paradise. Twice voted “Best Hotel in the World”, this barefoot resort spreads across two private islands, surrounded by idyllic white sand beach and a vibrant coral reef and lagoon.

We spent one week enjoying romantic dining experiences with its fine cuisine and stunning dining venues (undersea restaurant, dreamy sunset at a private beach…), indulging in the two spas, diving in one of the world’s most remarkable waters or just reading a book and doing absolutely nothing while we enjoyed the sunset at our overwater villa’s jacuzzi :)

Perfect place for honeymooners and sybarites.

To learn more about Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, visit their website

Photos by Pedro Sagüés

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